Counseling for “Normal” People

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By Rev. Dr. Ronald Lehenbauer

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Who Is Counseling For?

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Counseling is for the Weak
Our society has a history of putting a stigma on persons who go for counseling.  To admit needing help was to admit weakness.  People thought there must be something “wrong” with you if you worked with a psychologist.  But time is slowly erasing that stigma.  It’s a healthy sign that this perception is changing.  Most of us believe that if you’re not feeling well physically it is probably smart to consult with a medical doctor.  And, as a society, we’re beginning to see that if you’re not feeling well in your mind it might be smart to consult with a mental health therapist.  That might be in your best interest and the intelligent thing to do.  

On Second Thought. . .
What is “normal”?  Currently there is a debate and a wide variety of views about how to define “normal”.  What someone may consider strange or “abnormal” may simply be differences in personalities or viewpoints or backgrounds.  We all have different ways of looking at the world and reacting to various situations and stimuli.  Who’s to say my thinking and behavior is normal and yours is not?  What is considered “normal” may also vary from one culture to another.  My point is simply that we need to be careful in how we use that word “normal.”  

Let’s Be Clear
I think it’s important to demystify what therapy is, and what happens when you talk with a counselor.  Persons troubled with serious depression or anxiety, or couples and families experiencing severe conflict and disruption in their relationships frequently find relief and experience substantial benefits and healing working with a trained counselor.  

Taking Proper Care of Your Self
But what many don’t understand is that you don’t have to have “severe” emotional or relationship problems to benefit from counseling.  The term “mental health” has often been only an “OK topic” to discuss if you’re talking about bouts of severe depression or some similar big emotional challenges.  What we’re beginning to better understand is that taking care of your mental health may simply mean doing what you need to do to handle some life-stresses you’re dealing with, to get yourself into a better frame of mind, to reach some goals you’re striving for, to feel good about yourself and live a meaningful life.

There’s Always Room for More Growth
Learning some healthy thinking habits, and practicing some mindfulness-meditation is simply good “brain hygiene.”  And that can be the main objective of some sessions with a psychotherapist.  .There are lots of reasons people are coming into counseling more frequently.  I’m a big tennis fan, and not surprised that many professional tennis players are working with sports psychologists to help them play better.  Or couples who have a generally good relationship with each other are able – with some couple counseling sessions – to find ways to improve their communication and discover some new insights and ways to experience an even deeper connection.   

A Life that is Rich and Full and Meaningful
One mode of therapy I use (ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) emphasizes the importance of individual psychological flexibility for quality of life and mental health – living a rich and full and meaningful life.  Psychological flexibility means holding your own emotions and thoughts a bit more lightly, and acting on longer term values and goals, rather than short term impulses, thoughts and feelings.  That’s a kind of thing a person can talk about with a therapist.  

Holy and Sacramental
As a pastoral counselor, I think of my counseling work as being sacramental.  Our Lutheran Confessions consider the “mutual conversation and consolation of (Christian) brothers and sisters” to be a “means of grace” – sacramental.  Sitting together and talking through stuff that’s troubling us, empathizing and comforting one another, sharing the grace and love of God together – I see this as holy and sacramental activity, through which God blesses and cares for us.  {Sources: Stephen Tignor, “Brain Training,” Tennis Magazine (9&10, 2021), pp.74-77.  The Book of Concord, Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article IV: The Gospel}. 

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Ronald Lenebauer

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Ronald Lehenbauer, DMin, MDiv, LMFThas served as pastor of congregations in Jenison, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Flushing, New York.   He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from NY Theological Seminary and holds Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.   Dr. Lehenbauer completed certification in pastoral counseling at the Post-graduate Center for Mental Health in New York, NY.  He is a certified  Imago Relationship Therapist and also is trained in Discernment Counseling, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, EMDR, and other therapy modes for anxiety and depression.  Dr. Lehenbauer is a NY state licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, providing counseling for adults and coupleat the LCC sites in Mineola and Queens.

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For a counseling appointment, call LCC at 1-800-317-1173. 
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